Scottish Poetry Selection
- The Broken Bowl
Jessie Morton, the authoress of this poem, was born in Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, around 1824. Daughter of a book-seller, she moved later to the Kingdom of Fife. She began writing poetry when she was still quite young and her poems were published in various literary journals of the time. An illustrated collection of her poetry was produced in 1866. Her fame spread even as far as the London "Spectator" magazine. Her poems demonstrated a degree of skill - and although some were perhaps a bit maudlin by modern standards, she also showed considerable understanding of human nature - and a pauky humour (as in this example) which is still appreciated today.
If you are unfamiliar with some of the Scots words, there is a "translation" of these ate the end.
The Broken BowlWhaur Neidpath's w'as wi'pride look doon
Upon a guid auld burgh toon,
A cranky cratur lived lang syne
Amang some guide auld freends o'mine
Ane o' the awfu' cleanin' kind
That clean folk clean oot o' their mind,
And aften, as we've seen betide,
Clean guid men frae their ane fireside;
A fykie, fashious, yammerin'jaud,
That could the gear fu' steevely haud:
An ill-set, sour, ill-willy wilk -
She hada face 'twad yearned milk,
Forbye a lood, ill-scrapit tongue
As e'er in barmless heid was hung;
To girn and growl, to work and flyte
Was aye the ill-spun wisp's delight.
I'm sure that heaven to Tibbie's meanin'
Was aye great everlastin' cleanin'!
Frae morn to nicht she ne'er was still -
Her life was just a teugh treadmill;
She was just like an evil speerit,
She ne'er could settle for a minute,
But when a dud she made or clootit
Then a' the toon wad hear aboot it.
Ower weel John kenn'd his hoose was clean
An' keepit like a new-made preen;
That a' frae end to end was bricht,
For Tibbie toil'd frae morn to nicht,
Sae he, to hain the weary wark,
Ance hired a lassie stoot and stark -
A snod bit lassie, fell an'clever,
But Tibbie was as thrang as ever.
Nae suner was the cleanin' through
Than cleanin' just began anew.
Noo, on a bink in stately pride,
Her favoured bowls stood side by side;
Braw painted bowls, baith big and bonnie,
Bowls that were never touched by ony;
For they were honoured vessels a',
An' servile wark they never saw,
Save when a dainteth she was makin'.
She whiles took ane her meal to draik in.
Ae day, the lassie, a' things richtin',
Wi' canny care the bowls is dichtin';
An', puir thing, tho' her care increases,
She breaks ane in a thoosand pieces.
'What's that?' skreighed Tibbie; 'Losh preserve us!
Is this the way the fremit serve us?
Deil speed the fummlin' fingers o 'ye -
Ower Cuddy Brig I'll tak' an' throw ye;
Ye glaikit, guide for-naethin' jaud,
Ye'll bre'k us oot o' hoose an' haud;
My fingers yuke to hae ye whackit;
Tell me, ye cutty, hoo ye brak it?
In Embro' toon thae bowls were coft,
An' sax-an-twenty miles were brocht,
Weel packit up an' kindly carrit,
An' gien to me when I was marrit.
In name o' a' that e'er was wrackit -
In a' the warl, hoo did ye brak it?'
The lassie sabbit lang an' sair,
But Tibbie's tongue could never spare;
Lood was its clear an' wrathfu' tenor
When in John stappit to his denner,
An' as he drew in ower his seat
Her tongue brak' ower him like a spate.
He heard o' a' the sad disaster.
An' aye the tongue gaed fast an' faster;
An' aye there cam' the ither growl
'Lassie, hoo did ye brak the bowl?'
'Wheesht! Wheesht!' says John, 'nae mair aboot it,
'Od sake! Ye've plenty mair withoot it.'
But ere another word was spoken -
Wi' face thrawn like a weel-wrung stockin' -
She squealed -'Dye want to brek my heart?
Ye monster, will ye tak' her pairt?
Is this my thanks for a' my toil?
Hoo could the gipsy brek the bowl?'
Patient, John heard the endless clack
Till his twa lugs were like to crack;
An' rising, stappit to the shelf,
Whaur whummilt stood the gawsie delf,
An' looking ower the precious raw
He raised the biggest o' them a',
An', withoot steerin' aff the bit,
Clash loot the bowl fa' at his fit:
An' as the frichtit flinders flew,
Quoth he, 'Ye ken the way o't noo -
For, sure as I'm a leevin' sowl,
That's hoo the lassie brak the bowl.'
Meaning of unusual words (in the order in which they appear):
Neidpath=a town in the Scottish Borders
burgh=a town with a royal charter
lang syne=long ago
fashious=not easily pleased
gear fu' steevely haud=hold the smallest quanity very firmly
ill-willy wilk=grudging periwinkle
Ower weel=too well
hain=save the exertion of
whiles=now and then
Ae day=One day
Cuddy Brig=Horse Bridge
hoose an' haud=house and home
Embro' toon=Edinburgh town
twa lugs=two ears
gawsie delf=showy china
Clash loot=With a resounding impact, let
frichtit flinders=frightful fragments
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